Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Poetry's known to hide or gentrify pain. It's a sprucing up, an improvement on the particulars that led the man or woman with the quill and the parchment to cough those feelings up onto the white or off-whiteness, all squirming and squinting at the brightness that is now asking them to pose or to freeze. The rocks have been overturned and there they are stuck between seclusion and an involuntary streaking. They jut left and run into another feeling, then jut right and sprint off at the fastest speeds they have.
Sometimes these pains that have come into our living rooms, bedrooms and baths are peskier than others, sometimes they're more endearing and we take to them the same way we take to mangy mutts and fraying sweaters. We may even do them the great honor of finding the stud in the wall, pinching a nail to the plaster and driving a nail into the wood to decorate with them if we've found someplace to mat and frame them. We make sure they're not crooked and are at eye-level and we stand fixated on them when the TV's turned off and the only sounds moving are those of the worn out floor and a creeping evening. Luke Pettipoole, the lead singer of Ames, Iowa, rock and roll outfit The Envy Corps uses his poetry the way that Rainer Maria Rilke and Sylvia Plath (name-dropped in one of the band's songs) used theirs, as a method to let the pain take on words, to let the words take on the flames and the fire and the smoke that they steam with in the open air.
It's a therapeutic way of coping and it helps the reinvention process along, giving the hurtful times their liberty, their moving about papers. Live and pictured on recording, Pettipoole is thrashing and jittery, loud and booming - exorcising the many tokens and people that he seems to let demonize him, that he welcomingly shakes hands with as if he were seeking their vote. He seems to be perpetually really for the gurney or the straightjacket, set to be strapped in just to settle things down. It's not a rambunctious roar, but it's full-bodied and meaningful. It feels like a tornado made out of misunderstandings, people grown apart, parenthesis, exclamation points, flushed cheeks and brutal honesty. He sings, "What's the problem dear/Are you feeling unloved/That's what I was most afraid of," on "Rooftop" and it's then - or at least one of the moments in listening to his words when it's realized that his biggest problem is himself at times.
He can be the root of all of his problems and when all has come back down to rest, there's a recognition of how it meant wrong and an accepting of blame, all the while knowing that so much of how it all played out could have been left up to the chaos theory and no one was going to come out on top at the finish. The band, which is filled out by phenomenal guitarist Brandon Darner and drummer Scott Yoshimura, specializes in taking all of the private moments that should stay behind closed doors or in affidavits and converting them into the kind of mega feelings that Bon Jovi and The Killers make - ones that could rattle the seat backs of arenas all over the world. It throws slamming guitars onto the mercury-dangerous secondary lines, over pounding and skittering drums, meeting up with Pettipoole's lyrics which take us through an early failed marriage, alcohol addiction and the dissolution of the people and situations in between. It's a kettle bubbling with potent brew, spilling all over everything and leaving behind something for the wall, to hang next to the cuckoo clock.